Dismissing Your Child's Identity


Dismissing Your Child's Identity

by Anna Krieger, MSW

Hey. My parents dismissed my coming out as me ‘thinking too much’ and ‘having too much time on my hands.’ They say that high school is a time for studying and preparing for the future and brought up examples from their childhood. They also cut down on my free time and upped my study hours. I know they mean the best but what should I do?
— Anonymous

Anna Says: 

Dear Parent,

Usually my advice would directly address you, but it's easy to forget that your children have questions, too. Your children often ask questions about what they can do to help you, their parent, accept their identity. So today, I'm sharing this question, as well as my answer to it, with the hope of demonstrating the vulnerability around coming out and the deep effect that you can have on your child, based on your reaction when they come out to you.


Dear Anonymous, 

I’m really sorry to hear that that happened. That sounds really rough. First, I want to acknowledge your courage for coming out in the first place – first to yourself, and now, to your parents. That’s awesome. Big stuff! Unfortunately, it sounds like your parents aren’t ready to accept where you are with this. This doesn’t mean that they won’t ever be ready, but they’re just not ready right now. Since they’re not ready, it will be important to meet them where they are, and to follow their rules (particularly while you live under their roof). 

Following their rules, however, does NOT mean you need to sacrifice your own journey with your identity. While your parents may not ready to accept where you are right now, you still get to live your authentic, out life – whatever that means for you – and to continue to explore yourself and your identity, coming out in all the places in your life, as you feel comfortable. As you continue to live your life authentically, perhaps your parents will begin to give you more freedom and come to terms with your identity. Until then, though, you can continue to respect where they are, and recognize that they need to go through their own journey of acceptance. This will allow you to maintain trust with them, which will hopefully lead to them being more understanding in the future. However, regardless of how your parents feel, the most important part of this process is continuing to come back to yourself, and to recognize your own strength in being able to fully live your life as you. In living openly and honestly, you will allow others to come to terms with your identity at their own pace, while still being true to yourself. 

Speaking from my own experience, when I first came out to my dad in high school, he didn’t believe me. To him, I didn’t fit his image of what “gay” looked like, so when I came out, he dismissed it, and thought I was confused. I knew he loved me, but he just didn’t know how to deal with it yet. So, I continued to live my life. I continued to explore my identity, and to be attracted to who I was attracted to. I also continued to share authentically with my dad, letting him in on my journey. I knew that he might not get it right then, but that I could still be real with him about where I was, and that eventually he might get it. And then, before I knew it, he began asking me about girls I was dating. He got it. It took time, but in being honest about who I was and continuing to live my life, I allowed my dad to accept my identity in his own time.

While everyone’s experience is different, I share this to show you the importance of living authentically. I also share this with the hope that parents will read about our experiences and gain perspective that will help them understand their child’s coming out process. Finally, I share this with the hope that parents will read about our experiences and gain perspective that will help them understand their child’s coming out process. While this post can’t eliminate any frustration, sadness, or any other challenging emotions that you might be feeling right now, please know how valuable it is that you are living life fully, as you. That, in itself, is inspiring, courageous, and beautiful. 

Anna Krieger, MSW has been committed to social issues since her time as a student at Haverford College, where, as an out student, she led several student groups focused around providing support for the LGBTQ community. Post-graduation, Anna worked in several low-performing middle and high schools in Philadelphia as an Americorps member, and later as a social worker, after graduating from University of Pennsylvania with her MSW. Anna moved to New York last year, where she has focused her career on recruitment, most recently for a non-profit that provides programming for high-need middle schools around the country. In her spare time, Anna likes to sit in the park, eat soft serve ice cream with sprinkles, and attempts to remember to update her blog: www.nougatsofinspiration.blogspot.com.

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